New Year Retrospective, cont.

No, I’m not jumping the shark, honestly. But on Monday I somehow threw my back out while sleeping, and haven’t really recovered as my chiropractor was out of town until today. Unfortunately, one adjustment doesn’t fix my problems and his instructions were firm: no riding just yet. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as it’s been sprinkling nearly non-stop all day. So between the rain, and the pain, there was no weekend ride, and therefore… no weekend rideblog!

But never fear, loyal friends. I thought I’d throw together a quick photo retrospective of The Raleigh’s life story (or the changes I have wrought upon the dear old girl).

This is The Raleigh just a day or so after I received the bike. Everything on it (except the brass bell) is the original equipment I received. The tires are gumwall Kendas, which were cracking, but held air. The grips were horrible black foam cheapies. The saddle was the original 1969 Brooks.

Speaking of dates, The Raleigh’s Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub is undated. The age of the bike was determined, with the help of some of the nice folks on Bike Forums, by the decals and the almost-completely vanished pinstriping.

Having read Veloria’s entry on changes she had made to her old Raleigh on Lovely Bicycle!, I knew I wanted to make some cosmetic adjustments. First and foremost was to get rid of those grips!

I ordered a set of Rivendell’s fancy Portuguese cork grips and followed the instructions for putting them on and shellacking them. It wasn’t a particularly difficult project, and they looked beautiful upon completion:

Unfortunately, they were hard as rock!

Oh well: they were glued on with automotive glue. As far as I knew, they were stuck on for life.

The next change was a pair of sleek cream Delta Cruisers, and a wee saddlebag from Velo Orange.

There’s also a CatEye headlamp on the handlebars.

I already owned the Basil Cardiff baskets, but they worked nicely on the Pletscher rack.

At this point, I thought I was pretty much done. What could possibly need to be changed?

Over the next few months, the hard cork grips began to soften up rather nicely. Then disaster struck. I dropped the bike, and one grip shattered. So off they came, to be replaced by cheap leather lace-ups.

So that should definitely be that, right? Now the bike was perfect! Ha.

Shortly after I took this photo, disaster struck again:

So much for not needing to make any major changes!

It took me several months to get my finances together and get down to Dutch Bike Co. to buy a new saddle. In the meantime, I was primarily riding my Panasonic. The race bike’s fit was hard on my body, though, so I was really longing to get The Raleigh moving again. Especially as I’d just had surgery (a hysterectomy!) so an upright bike was a real boon. I had decided to get a sprung saddle this time, to improve The Raleigh’s ride, but I was torn over color. In theory, a “honey” colored Brooks would look nicest with the root beer brown paint, I thought.

But in person, I liked the chocolate brown saddle better (note how far forward it is here! We quickly scooted it back). I also picked up a red plaid BikeCap saddle cover, which keeps the Brooks dry and acts as marvelous camouflage when I have to lock it up somewhere. The Magical Fritz at Dutch Bike also rolled my handlebars forward for me, to make the bike fit better. It was rather miraculous. Suddenly, there was no more comfy bike. The Panasonic seemed less and less ridable, so at last, I sold it.

The only thing that still bugged me on The Raleigh was the grips: those cheap leather ones had stitching that poked me when I moved my hands around. I decided to try a pair of Portland Dan grips. I have Portland Dan’s ergo grips on The Viva, and I love them, but I thought The Raleigh would look better with the non-ergo.

But I was wrong. Without the ergo grip, they were harder than the cork. It was like riding taped bars, which was not a good sensation on an upright bike. They lasted less than a week, before I put on the fake wood grips another nice guy on Bike Forums had sent me:

These are remarkably comfy, combining softness with a reasonably attractive look. They’re filthy now, but haven’t needed replacing. I can ride 35 miles and not even notice my hands.

But now that the bike was near-perfection… I decided it needed a few more tweeks.

First off, the brakes had never worked very well. So new brakes were needed. And then there were those heavy steel rims, which made stopping in the rain nearly impossible. So I dove into my pockets and invested in brand new CR-18 rims, new stainless spokes, and new Tektro levers. I also lowered the gearing just one level, which was enough to keep my beautiful fast 3rd gear, while allowing me to power up hills. It took several adjustments to get them all to work together, but today The Raleigh can stop reasonably well in any weather and the ride is much easier: faster and lighter and more responsive.

On a flat stretch, The Raleigh can easily hit 15 miles an hour for long stretches with almost no effort on my part. No, it isn’t a race bike. I realize that a light-weight racer could sustain closer to 30 or more. But I ride bike trails, so really, 15 mph is the fastest I need to be going anyway. The Raleigh is sub-35 pounds now, and the sprung saddle is getting ever-more comfortable (though it STILL isn’t completely broken in, and I’ve put close to 400 miles on it since I bought it!). With the addition of the cute little buttons on the saddlebag and throwing away the danged CatEye, I just can’t find a reason to ride another bike.

Thus the selling of The Viva, which is a lovely bike and very comfy… but it’s just not The Raleigh. At this point, I can’t figure out what else it might need. I should replace the wire twist tie that’s holding on the side of the rack with a real bolt. The bell was kicked by one of The Girls, accidentally, when she was using our garage swing, so it sometimes doesn’t ring. I would like to get a copper bell with a hammer, like this one, that would be both louder, and freakin’ gorgeous. Other than that, The Raleigh has achieved perfection indeed.

The paint is in terrible condition. The fenders look like someone hit them with a baseball bat in spots. The brakes sometimes squeak, and sometimes take a bit more pressure than I’d prefer. I probably should have laced up a front dyno hub when I got the new rims, and sprung for a front headlight.

But so what. The Raleigh is The One. Other people own older, fancier, faster, better-lugged, prettier, sexier, more expensive bikes. But I own the one I love. That’s all that matters.

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20 Responses to New Year Retrospective, cont.

  1. I love my Raleigh Sports, and I just started riding her again a couple days ago!

    What *is* it about those bicycles that is so fantastic? They’re so comfy and graceful. I’m slower sometimes than I am on my touring bike, but I usually don’t care. Riding Miz Raleigh just puts a big smile on my face.

  2. Erin B says:

    So…. no discussion about the possibility of a second Raleigh with a custom paint job?

  3. rideblog says:

    April, I have no idea why the Sports models are so special, but they are! Everyone I know who owns one loves it. The funny thing is, I rarely have anyone comment on it as I ride by, the way they do with The Viva, so it’s like The Raleigh is a stealth gem!

  4. rideblog says:

    Erin, I had to give up the ghost on commuting. It just wasn’t going to happen. My sleep issues are too severe. Right now, I’m hanging onto the frame and thinking that someday, it may work for my step-daughter, with some Frankenbiking. The Raleigh is just great the way it is, you know? Though someday it may need a new paint job, at the rate I’m ruining it! :)

  5. Pingback: Raleigh Improvements | April likes bikes!

  6. Auchen says:

    +1 on the love for Raleigh Sports. – And the more you ruin the paint, the more you’ll love it.

    By the way, those Crane/Suzue clock-bells are fab. I have a few in brass, silver and black, but this is the first time I’ve seen one in copper. I’m certain the sound of copper will be slightly different than the others, so that just lends further justification for spending more money. :-)

  7. anniebikes says:

    I like the chronologue of the Raleigh. It’s turned out very beautiful, stil retro but with upgrades just for your personal preference.

  8. rideblog says:

    Auchen, I have found over time that I need little justification :). Part of The Viva’s sale will no doubt fund that last addition to The Raleigh’s transformation :).

  9. rideblog says:

    Thanks, Annie! I’ve tried to keep the upgrades relatively retro too, but I’m not a “retro grouch” about it.

  10. disabledcyclist says:

    That was cool,watching the transformation from start to finish all in one post! I dig those older Raleighs myself…one day I’ll own one ;)

    As for paint and such mentioned,I dig the vintage root beer,age and all,gives her MUCH character :)

    The DC

  11. Pingback: Cabin Fever or Raleigh Appreciation Day « Bikes, the Universe and Everything

  12. rideblog says:

    Thanks, DC. I love the color of the paint. There’s a guy here who does amazing restorations, and someday, if I had the money, it would be cool to do a full restore. But for now, the scratches and gouges give it character. :)

  13. elise says:

    Did you lower the gearing yourself? I have a ’71 SA internal hub on my Triumph (second tier Raleigh brand). A friend of mine told me it wasn’t possible to lower the gearing… but now I’m curious!

  14. rideblog says:

    Hi Elise, I didn’t lower it myself. I had the shop do it, but I can’t see why you couldn’t lower the gearing on your bike. I’d ask the nice folks over at Bike Forums in the Classic and Vintage Forum. Tell them what bike you have and take some photos and then ask, and you’ll have a dozen answers. I would think it wouldn’t be an issue at all. I lowered it from an 18 to a 20. Most folks go to 22, but my shop only had 20s. I love it. I’m perfectly happy with it, and wouldn’t have gone lower, and we have some monster hills.

  15. elise says:

    (new to reading your blog)

    Did you go to Dutch Bike? I live in Seattle, on First Hill, so I think I’d probably want to go 22 considering that anytime I leave my house I’ll need to ride up a monster hill to get back.

  16. rideblog says:

    I did go to Dutch Bike. They are GREAT! My favorite mechanic is Fritz, but I also like Travis. Travis did the gearing. If you let them know what you have, and what you want, they can be sure to have the gear in stock. You’d definitely want a 22 on First Hill! We should do a ride on the Burke sometime. I’d love to see the old Triumph. No one in Seattle seems to be into three speeds.

    The boys at Dutch Bike really know and like old bikes. Fritz is somewhat magic. I’d call them and ask, but you can also just show up and show them the bike. They are amazing.

  17. CJ says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’d been wondering how the Raleigh came together, thinking maybe I missed some blog posts at the very beginning somehow.

  18. rideblog says:

    I’m not sure I ever posted everything, CJ. Some stuff was just sort of organic :).

  19. monk says:

    Great retro! Every time I see a photo of your Raleigh, I’m reminded of just how much I miss my old Sprite. I enjoyed riding it almost as much as my Sojourn (and some days even more).

  20. rideblog says:

    I The Raleigh so that I really don’t even look at other bikes anymore. I think it’s bike monogamy.

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